Physics 471, Principles of Optics



Welcome to Physics 471.  This course is designed to teach you to to:

  • Use theoretical descriptions and conceptual understanding of wave and ray depictions of light to describe and predict: reflection/transmission at boundaries, dispersion, polarization effects, interference, diffraction, coherence, ray optics and imaging, the propagation of light in matter and the quantum nature of light.
  • Manipulate and measure properties of light, optical components and systems in a laboratory setting.
  • Demonstrate understanding of and ability to use mathematical tools such as: vector calculus, complex numbers, matrices, and Fourier transforms (1D and 2D).


The text for this course is Physics of Light and Optics, available online at I recommend that you can buy a hardcopy from the bookstore.  It is more expensive to print it yourself, and it is not appropriate to print a copy of the book using department resources.


Your final grade will be based on four types of assignments:

Preparing for Lecture: Quizzes (9% of grade)
The class schedule lists the sections from the text that will be covered in class. You are expected to read this material before coming to class. We will have short in-class quizzes to encourage careful reading and class participation. You will receive half-credit on the quizzes simply for being in class and trying each quiz questions. Quizzes can only be taken during class—makeup quizzes will not be offered. However, your lowest nine quiz scores will be dropped to give you the opportunity to occasionally miss class without penalty.

In-Class Presentation (5% of grade)
Each student is required to give a five minute presentation on a historical person who influenced the field of optics. Presentations should be in PowerPoint, and should include a list of supporting references at the end. Make sure to give proper credit to the sources you use to prepare your presentation. To receive credit for this assignment, email me your presentation with all participants clearly listed on the first slide.

Homework (35% of grade)
Homework is due each Tuesday and Thursday, and should be submitted in the bin on the 3rd floor. The lowest homework score will be dropped when computing the final grade. Each assignment will be graded and returned before the next assignment is due. You may appeal in writing if you feel the grading was in any way unfair (submit appeals in the appeals slot). An assignment may be resubmitted one week of the first deadline to restore 50% of the points missed. Resubmissions must be completely finished (all problems) and completely accurate (you can check with the TA if you have questions). In other words, the re-grading is all or nothing. Late homework is treated like a resubmission. Resubmissions must follow these guidelines:

  • Use a different color pen or pencil when completing an assignment that was previously given partial credit (not red…that is what the grader will use).
  • Submit it in the “re-grade” slot, not the regular homework slot.
  • Clearly write “resubmission” at the top of the assignment.

Exams (51% of grade)
There will be three midterm exams worth 12% of your grade each, and one final exam worth 15% of your grade.  Problems on the exam will be similar in style to those in the homework.

Checking Your Grades

We will use the ScoreCard system for recording grades.  You can access this system here


The class schedule will be updated periodically.  The current version will be posted here:

BYU Policies

Harassment of any kind is inappropriate at BYU. Specifically, BYU's policy against sexual harassment extends not only to employees of the university but to students as well. If you encounter sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, or other inappropriate behavior, please talk to your professor, contact the Equal Employment Office at 422-5895 or 367-5689, or contact the Honor Code Office at 422-2847.

BYU is committed to providing reasonable accommodation to qualified persons with disabilities. If you have any disability that may adversely affect your success in this course, please contact the University Accessibility Center at 422-2767. Services deemed appropriate will be coordinated with the student and instructor by that office.

Children in the Classroom
The serious study of the physical and mathematical sciences requires uninterrupted concentration and focus in the classroom. Having small children in class is often a distraction that degrades the educational experience for the entire class. Please make other arrangements for child care rather than bringing children to class with you. If there are extenuating circumstances, please talk with your instructor in advance.